Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois

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Keith's estate filed a wrongful death and survival action against Ortberg, a licensed clinical social worker and employee assistance program counselor, and her employer Rockford Memorial Hospital, alleging that, on September 30, 2005, Keith had an initial appointment with Ortberg; that it was Ortberg’s duty to evaluate Keith’s mental health condition; that Ortberg breached her duty by performing an inadequate assessment and failed to recognize that Keith was at high risk for suicide, and failed to refer him to an emergency room or a psychiatrist for immediate treatment. Keith died by suicide on or about October 6, 2005. The circuit court submitted an instruction, over plaintiff’s objection, asking the jury to respond “Yes” or “No”: Was it reasonably foreseeable to Ortberg on September 30, that Keith would commit suicide on or before October 9? The jury entered a general verdict in favor of the plaintiff, awarding damages of $1,495,151, but answered “No” on the special interrogatory. The circuit court ruled that the special interrogatory answer was inconsistent with the general verdict and entered judgment in defendants’ favor. The appellate court found, and the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, that the special interrogatory was not in proper form and should not have been given to the jury; it did not apply the objective “reasonable person” standard for determining foreseeability and, therefore, misstated the law, Because the special interrogatory was ambiguous, the jury’s answer was not necessarily inconsistent with its general verdict. View "Stanphill v. Ortberg" on Justia Law

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Mroczko was employed by A&R as a custodian in a building where Pepper was performing maintenance work. Pepper's subcontractor, Perez, was replacing the carpets. While Mroczko was cleaning, a desk that had been placed in an upright position fell and injured her. Mroczko filed a successful workers’ compensation claim against A&R but failed to file a timely personal injury action. A&R filed a subrogation action. The Workers’ Compensation Act. 820 ILCS 305/5(b), permits an employee to file her own personal injury action against a third-party tortfeasor to recover damages for a work injury. The employer is entitled to reimbursement of its workers’ compensation benefits out of the proceeds obtained by the employee and has a limited right to intervene to protect its workers’ compensation lien. If the employee fails to file her own action, the employer may file the same action that the employee could have filed. The statute is silent as to whether an employee has the right to intervene in the employer's action. While A&R’s litigation was pending, Mroczko filed her own personal injury action, which was dismissed as barred by the two-year statute of limitations. Mroczko filed an amended complaint against Pepper only, alleging that her injuries arose out of Pepper’s construction work so that her action was timely under the four-year construction statute of limitations. The court dismissed the action. Mroczko then sought to intervene in A&R’s subrogation action. The circuit court denied that petition, citing res judicata. The Illinois Supreme Court agreed. Whether Mroczko had an interest in A&R’s action based on A&R’s pursuit of damages, including for her pain and suffering, is irrelevant to res judicata, which applies because Mroczko previously asserted the same claim against the same defendant, which resulted in a final judgment on the merits. View "A&R Janitorial v. Pepper Construction Co." on Justia Law

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First Midwest sued defendants for breach of a promissory note. Defendants responded that First Midwest or its predecessor had already sued them twice for the same breach of the same promissory note: once in a foreclosure suit in 2011 and once in a breach of promissory note suit in 2013. First Midwest claimed that the first lawsuit involved a claim for foreclosure on a mortgage, which is different from a breach of a promissory note. The circuit court agreed, but the appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court’s decision. In Illinois, a plaintiff who voluntarily dismisses a claim has only one opportunity to refile that same claim. Whether two lawsuits assert the same claim does not depend solely on how the plaintiff titles the complaint. A lawsuit for breach of a promissory note asserts the same cause of action as a prior foreclosure complaint when that foreclosure complaint specifically requested a deficiency judgment based on the same default of the same note. View "First Midwest Bank v. Cobo" on Justia Law

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The Diamond law firm filed a qui tam action against My Pillow, under the Illinois False Claims Act, 740 ILCS 175/1, asserting that My Pillow had failed to collect and remit taxes due under the Retailers’ Occupation Tax Act (ROT) and the Use Tax Act (UTA), and had knowingly made false statements, kept false records and avoided obligations under the statutes. The cause was brought in the name of the state but the state elected not to proceed, yielding the litigation to Diamond. At trial, Diamond, who had made the purchases at issue, served as lead trial counsel and testified as a witness. While an outside law firm also appeared as counsel of record for Diamond, its involvement was extremely small. Diamond essentially represented itself. The court ruled in favor of My Pillow on Diamond’s ROT claims, but in favor of Diamond on Diamond’s UTA claims; ordered My Pillow to pay $782,667; and recognized that the litigation had resulted in My Pillow paying an additional $106,970 in use taxes. A private party bringing a successful claim under the Act is entitled to receive 25%-30% of the proceeds. The court held that My Pillow should pay $266,891, to Diamond; found that Diamond was entitled to reasonable attorney fees, costs, and expenses, and awarded Diamond $600,960. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the damage award but held that Diamond could not recover attorney fees for work performed by the firm’s own lawyers. To the extent that Diamond prosecuted its own claim using its own lawyers, the law firm was proceeding pro se. View "Schad, Diamond and Shedden, P.C. v. My Pillow, Inc." on Justia Law

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Bingham had a 1993 conviction for attempted criminal sexual assault but was not required to register as a sex offender at that time because the conviction occurred before the 1986 enactment of the Sex Offender Registration Act (730 ILCS 150/1). Under section 3(c)(2.1) of the Act as amended in 2011, Bingham’s 2014 felony theft conviction triggered a requirement that he register as a sex offender on account of his 1983 conviction for attempted criminal sexual assault. Sex offender registration was not reflected in the trial court’s judgment. Bingham argued that the registration requirement was unconstitutional as applied to him on due process grounds and that it violated the ex post facto clauses of the United States and Illinois Constitutions. The appellate court upheld the Act. The Illinois Supreme Court vacated, concluding that the appellate court lacked jurisdiction. That court was not exercising any of the powers delineated in Ill. S. Ct. Rule 615(b)(2) with respect to defendant’s argument, which did not ask the reviewing court to reverse, affirm, or modify the judgment or order from which the appeal is taken, nor did it ask to set aside or modify any “proceedings subsequent to or dependent upon the judgment or order from which the appeal is taken.” View "People v. Bingham" on Justia Law

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Vara was convicted of child pornography (720 ILCS 5/11-20.1(a)(6)(vii)). The circuit court sentenced him to three years of imprisonment and imposed fines mandated by statutes: a $1000 child pornography fine (720 ILCS 11-20.1(c)), a $500 sex offender fine (730 ILCS 5/5-9-1.15)), and a $500 additional child pornography fine (720 ILCS 5-9-1.14). The court also imposed a $200 fine that was described at the hearing as a “sheriff’s office fine” but was referenced in the written sentencing order as a “sexual assault fine” (720 ILCS 5-9-1.7). The clerk of the Stephenson County Circuit Court included several entries in the electronic accounts receivable record pertaining to Vara’s conviction; some indicated that he was obligated to pay fines not specified in the judgment: “Court” ($50), “Youth Diversion” ($5), “Violent Crime” ($100), “Lump Sum Surcharge” ($250), “Sexual Assault” ($200), “Sex Offender Regis” ($500), “Medical Costs” ($10), “State Police Ops” ($15), “Child Pornography” ($495), and “Clerk Op Deduction” ($5). The appellate court vacated the challenged data entries, rejecting the state’s argument that it had authority to order imposition of mandatory fines that were not imposed by the circuit court. The Illinois Supreme Court vacated. The appellate court lacked jurisdiction to review the clerk’s recording of fines that were not ordered by the circuit court. View "People v. Vara" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Dr. Parmar died, leaving an estate valued at more than $5 million. Plaintiff was appointed as executor of the estate. At the time of Parmar’s death, the estate was not subject to taxation under the Estate Tax Act, 35 ILCS 405/1. Two days after Parmar’s death, the state revived the tax for the estates of persons who died after December 31, 2010. Plaintiff filed the estate’s Illinois estate tax return and paid the tax liability. Plaintiff eventually filed a second amended return, claiming that the amendment to the Estate Tax Act did not apply to his mother’s estate and no tax was due, then filed a purported class action challenging the retroactivity and constitutionality of the Act. Plaintiff requested a declaration that the Estate Tax Act applies only to the estates of persons who died on or after the amendment’s effective date or that the Estate Tax Act is unconstitutional. The Illinois Supreme Court upheld the suit’s dismissal for lack of jurisdiction; because the complaint seeks a money judgment against the state, it is barred under the State Lawsuit Immunity Act (745 ILCS 5/1). The complaint must be filed in the Illinois Court of Claims. The damages that plaintiff seeks go beyond the exclusive purpose and limits of the Estate Tax Refund Fund and potentially subject the state to liability. Plaintiff could have filed suit in the circuit court under the Protest Moneys Act (30 ILCS 230/1). View "Parmar v. Madigan" on Justia Law

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In 2010, as the trustee for an alternative loan trust, the Bank filed a residential mortgage foreclosure complaint against Pacific and others in Will County. The Bank later filed an affidavit for service by publication stating that, after searches of directory assistance and the Secretary of State’s business registration records, it was unable to locate Pacific. After service by publication, Pacific failed to respond. In July 2012, the court entered a default order and judgment of foreclosure, with a finding that service of process was proper. In February 2013, the property was sold at a sheriff’s sale. The Bank sought an order approving the sale. At the April 18 hearing, Pacific’s attorney appeared for the first time. The Bank failed to appear. The court dismissed for want of prosecution. On May 30, the court reinstated the case. On July 18, Pacific moved to quash service of process, asserting that Pacific is a foreign LLC registered in New Mexico, that it does not have an Illinois registered agent, and that service by publication was improper under 805 ILCS 180/1-50. In May 2014, the court denied Pacific’s motion because it was filed more than 60 days after Pacific filed its appearance (735 ILCS 5/15-1505.6(a)) and held that service by publication was proper. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, rejecting the Bank’s contention that the 60-day deadline was unaffected by the dismissal. Before 60 days can pass such an action necessarily must be pending. The court remanded the question of service by publication. View "Bank of New York Mellon v. Laskowski" on Justia Law

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Cook County public defender Campanelli refused an appointment to defend Cole, accused of armed robbery, arson, and murder, citing potential conflicts of interests with co-defendants. The court nonetheless appointed the public defender’s office. Campanelli file notice of intent to refuse appointment, citing Rule 1.7 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct, noting that the Counties Code (55 ILCS 5/3-4006) allows a court to appoint counsel other than the public defender if the appointment of the public defender would prejudice the defendant. The court responded that it had not made a finding that appointment of the public defender would prejudice the defendant. There were 518 Cook County public defender attorneys; they did not all share the same supervisors. There is a multiple defender division for multiple offender cases but Campanelli contended that she was in conflict even in those cases and continued to refuse appointment, arguing that she was the attorney for every client assigned to her office. Campanelli also asserted that her office was a law firm and should be treated like any other law firm. The circuit court of Cook County entered an adjudication of direct civil contempt against Campanelli and sanctioned Campanelli $250 per day. The appellate court stayed the fines. On direct appeal, the Illinois Supreme Court agreed that Campanelli was in contempt, but vacated the order and sanction. “At best, Campanelli’s claims of conflict are based upon mere speculation that joint representation of codefendants by assistant public defenders will, at some point, result in conflict.” View "People v. Cole" on Justia Law

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Prusak filed medical malpractice complaint in 2011, against Dr. Jager, University Retina, and University of Chicago medical providers. Prusak claimed that from 2007-2009, she received treatment from Dr. Jager for “flashes, spots and floaters in her eyes.” In 2009, she underwent a brain biopsy that showed she had central nervous system lymphoma. She alleged that Dr. Jager was negligent in failing to order appropriate diagnostic testing. Prusak died in November 2013. Prusak’s daughter was allowed to substitute herself as plaintiff, as the executor of Prusak’s estate and, in April 2014, filed an amended complaint, citing the Wrongful Death Act (740 ILCS 180/2), and the Survival Act (755 ILCS 5/27-6) and the same allegations of negligence as the original complaint. Defendants alleged that plaintiff’s wrongful death claim was barred by the four-year medical malpractice statute of repose because decedent had died more than four years after the last alleged act of negligent medical treatment. Plaintiff responded that the wrongful death claim related back to the original complaint under 735 ILCS 5/2-616(b). The circuit court dismissed the wrongful death claim. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. The wrongful death action accrued upon decedent’s death, which occurred after the four-year repose period had expired. If plaintiff had filed an original wrongful death complaint at that time, it would have been barred by the statute of repose but a pending complaint can be amended to include a wrongful death claim that accrued after the statute of repose expired. View "Lawler v. University of Chicago Medical Center" on Justia Law